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Copper plating of stainless steel screws



(-----) 2002

Q. I am new to electroplating and am looking for some answers. I want to electroplate stainless steel screws with copper. What I need is the strength of the steel but the conductivity of the copper. Can anyone please let me know what I can do to get started, or where I can find any more information?

Thank you very much.

Tom Idstein
PET imaging center - Iowa City, Iowa
^


2002

A. Hi, Tom. Something that most people may not realize is that electroplating is very much a jobshop oriented business. Even the biggest manufacturers, like the auto makers and appliance makers, have pulled out of the plating business and are relying upon jobshops for their plating. So you may be looking to find a plating shop to plate your screws rather than equipment to plate your screws in house.

Plating is very thin, usually measured in ten thousandths of an inch, rarely in thousandths, so it will not improve the conductivity of a screw by much (but it will improve the contact resistance). Is it possible that some brass alloy will give you sufficient strength and far more conductivity than stainless steel?

But, yes, the stainless steel screws can be copper plated. Plating of stainless steel usually starts with a Wood's Nickel Strike because the thing is, you can't successfully plate onto tarnish or a passive skin, you must plate on fresh, active metal -- and stainless steel passivates almost instantly. The nickel strike simultaneously dissolves the tarnish while it deposits a fresh layer of nickel plating. Good luck.

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey
^


2002

Q. We are looking to use these screws in a high voltage, high temperature environment. We need the strength of stainless steel, as these screws will be load-bearing. We also need the screws to be able to withstand high temperatures, which is why a copper screw, or even a brass screw will not work. We need the screw to be able to pass on RF in this application. We do not need to pass the current through the whole screw, we just need to have a skin on the screw to pass on the RF current. We were thinking of purchasing one of the "home electroplating" kits that we have heard about, but we are looking to plate small screws (5 mm), and will need a basket of some sort. Thank you for your help.

Tom Idstein
PET imaging center - Iowa City, Iowa
^


2002

A. It's theoretically doable. It requires an alkaline cleaning step, an acid activation step, a Wood's nickel strike, and copper electroplating--with rinses between each process. You may want a post-dip in some kind of copper preservative like benzotriazole.

I'll express my opinion a 2nd time though, that you may wish to look for a plating service rather than plating equipment though. While a hobbyist may get away with simply buying and using a hobby plating kit, electroplating was our nation's first categorically regulated industry and a business will require discharge permits, regular sampling, effluent monitoring and reports, toxic waste manifesting, etc. Unfortunately, there is more to robust, reliable plating and its waste treatment than most people would think.

Good luck.

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey
^


2003

Q. I also have the same problem, we need to copper plate on stainless steel in our lab. We tried several times on Cu plating in different current density, and annealing conditions, but all failed during scotch tape test. Since we only need very small quantity at a time for many trials in connection with other experiments, does anyone have suggestion that we should start with?

Thanks in advance,

Alex Kuo
Case Western Reserve University - Cleveland, Ohio
^


March 31, 2009

A. Hi, Alex. I don't think you are going to successfully plate copper directly onto stainless steel. Please investigate the subject of Wood's Nickel Strike; this is an almost universal step in plating onto stainless steel. Good luck!

Regards,

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey
^


March 31, 2009

Q. I have a similar need for plating stainless steel.
I have managed to do some successfully but the next time was unsuccessful.
I used sulphuric acid and some copper pipe for an electrode and was able to plate the first time using 6V DC.
To this copper plated area I was able to solder a wire connection without any problem.
The next time I tried, the copper plate went on and came off again while plating, and although there was a small area of copper plating I was not able to solder to it this time.

Reg Pye
- Peterborough, South Australia
^


March 31, 2009

A. Hello, Reg. When you say "similar need" ...

There is nothing wrong with trying to electroplate for a school science project using copper pipe as the electrode, but if you are speaking of any sort of a functional product, as opposed to educational play, this is like fastening your automobile rims with lug nuts whittled from a stick.

We have an FAQ that covers science project copper plating, but functional plating is a fairly rigorous science; and trying to plate copper directly onto stainless steel with proper adhesion does not in general work. Nor does using low quality metal like copper pipe as the anode. Good luck.

Regards,

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey
^


August 25, 2009

A. Try this procedure for copper plate per MIL-C-14550B, Class 3 (you can get this spec for free at the following: assist.daps.dla.mil/quicksearch/
then enter the MIL spec number in the Document ID. Different coating classes based on coating thickness. The spec is obsolete (now handled by ASME/AMS or something) but it is still good.

I don't know the particulars of each step unfortunately because I don't perform it, I just require it on my parts:

Solvent Clean
Glass Peen (150 micron or smaller grit)
Solvent Clean
Alkaline clean (Anodic)
Rinse
Acid Pickle to remove heat treat scale
Rinse
De-Passivate
Rinse
Copper Plate
Rinse
Copper Conversion (Dip)
Rinse
Dry

It's thin but it works on many stainless and alloy steels (omit acid pickle and de-passivating for alloy steels).

Jeff Oakley
Oilfield - Buckley, Michigan, USA
^


May 10, 2011

A. Don't know if it would help but stainless steel screws already copper plated are available from suppliers.

MaryLouise Eckman
- Simi Valley, California, USA
^


January 24, 2012

Q. Hello sir,

What is the other method to copper plate rather than Wood nickel's strike?

Dull copper plating can be useful for proper bonding of the rods?

Abhiraj Naik
Engineer - Mumbai, Maharahstra, India
^


January 2012

A. Hi, Abhiraj.

I appreciate Jeff Oakley's efforts to help us, and you can certainly follow his advice and see if it works. Personally, I don't think it will work reliably and robustly though. And glass peening may not be economically reasonable depending on the type of parts you are processing anyway.

Regards,

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey
^


January 27, 2012

Q. Dear Sir

What are the factors responsible for plating?

What factors are taken into consideration in the electroplating?

How to calculate the plating time for acid copper?

Is there any formula for this?

Please help

Abhiraj Naik [returning]
Engineer - Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
^


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January 2012

A. Hello again Abhiraj.

Many metals, like copper, can be moved from the surface of one object to the surface of another by applying low voltage DC current to the two objects while they are immersed in a conductive medium. The metal oxidizes and ionizes from the positively charged object (the anode) and goes into solution; the ions migrate through solution to the negatively charged object (the cathode) where the excess of electrons reduces them back to metal. The "formula" regulating this is Faraday's Law, which is nothing complicated, just a way of saying that if you move a given number of electrons through the external wiring from one pole to the other, a proportional number of ionized atoms will move through the solution from one pole to the other. In other words, the amount of metal deposited is proportional to the current multiplied by the plating time. 96,485 amp-seconds will deposit one gram equivalent weight.

However, when you ask "what factors are taken into consideration", you are moving from a theoretical discussion that can be explained in a paragraph, to the practical and empirical knowledge that fills entire aisles of libraries and constitutes the acquired knowledge of a lifetime. That's a lot to ask :-)

For example, facts like you probably can't get sufficient adhesion onto stainless steel without special measures, and you can't easily get adhesion of nobler metals onto baser metals because the Nernst Equation factors can lead to immersion deposits. Please try to get access to a plating text like the Metal Finishing Guidebook.
or the Electroplating Engineering Handbook.
for an introduction to these factors. Although we can't answer open ended questions like that one, people can probably help if you are able to post more specific questions. Best of luck!

Regards,

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey
^


February 2, 2012

A. Hi all,

I was taught this formula when calculating plating times and thicknesses.

Number of components x area /144 x current density = your amps.

Number of components x area x microns req'd x Factor / amps = time.

The optimum current density for acid copper is 10 amps per sq/foot and the factor to use is 0.175

I used this formula when I was working in the electronics plating industry, the optimum cd and the factor are different for each process and metal wishing to be deposited.

Hope this helps.

Russell

Russell Davies
Aerospace surface finishers - Hinckley, Leicestershire, England
^



August 9, 2012

Q. Sir,

We've done copper plating on MS rods for years.
We now for the first time are trying to carry out copper plating on SS304 rod.
The procedure says to do:
1. anodic etching &
2. Wood's nickel

Is there any other solution then to avoid nickel strike?
Does etching give the best adhesion to the rod?
What the role of nickel strike in the process?

Thanks

Abhiraj Naik
Engineer - Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
^


August 29, 2012

A. Try a copper cyanide strike onto stainless steel.

trevor crichton
Trevor Crichton
R&D practical scientist
Chesham, Bucks, UK
^



July 18, 2015

Q. I am totally amateur about this subject. I have a question. Are you saying I cannot copper plate my Stainless steel ring at home using some salt, vinegar, a penny, and my jewelry? I have a SS wedding band that had the design I liked. I wanted copper color or rose gold color as it were. I thought I could just do a quick electroplate using my old school teachers' experiment I remembered from grade school. Am I mistaken?

Blaine Trarop
- Saginaw, Michigan, United States of North America
^


July 2015

A. Hi Blaine. It's very unlikely to be even the slightest bit satisfactory. The problem is that simple electroplating can move metal from one electrode to the other as demonstrated in our FAQ and as you saw in school, and it's fun and informative for kids to see, but it's like teaching kids "how to oilpaint". Sure, they can take a paintbrush and apply oilpaints to canvases, but their paintings won't be good for much ...

The metal you deposit will probably not be thick enough or bright enough, and almost surely will rub right off for lack of adhesion. There's a lot involved in robust electroplating.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey
^

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